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GCU VC Dr Asghar Zaidi asks parliament heads to reconsider controversial amendments in HEC Ordinance

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Vice Chancellor Government College University (GCU) Lahore Dr Asghar Zaidi has written an open letter to the Speaker National Assembly, Chairman Senate of Pakistan to reconsider any proposed amendments to Higher Education Commission (HEC) ordinance.

He also tweeted the letter and wrote a note while mentioning the Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani explaining that a bill was tabled in parliament through Private Members and without any consultation with the stakeholders. The proposed bill will affect the autonomy of the universities which is being undermined and the role of HEC is being changed from facilitator to a policing body, he wrote.

Dr Asghar Zaidi wrote, “These closed-door amendments would further damage the higher education sector, which is already facing numerous challenges. Also, this bill is proposed without any consultation with stakeholders, including the academic fraternity and students. These amendments also encroach upon the domains of the provinces and threaten to render higher education institutions subordinate to the HEC, thereby reducing our autonomy.”

In the letter, Vice Chancellor GCU pointed out, “The bill, being spearheaded by members Dr Zulfiqar Ali Bhatti, Dr Samina Matloob, and Zahra Wadood Fatemi, could have far-reaching and negative consequences for the higher education Sector in Pakistan.”

He further wrote, “As someone who is committed to the advancement of education and the promotion of academic excellence, we must object to any measures that would undermine the autonomy of universities and reduce the role of the HEC to that of a policing body.

The proposed amendments suggest that the HEC should have the power to “give directions to the Government functionaries, District administration and to aid the Commission Wherever the Commission deems necessary,” which is a worrying development.”

Dr Zaidi also noted in the letter, “These proposed amendments would further damage the higher education sector, which is already facing numerous challenges. It is also concerning that this bill has been proposed without any consultation with stakeholders, including education providers, employers, the academic fraternity, students, parents, and the wider population.

As an academic institution, we believe that any changes to the HEC Ordinance must be made through a consultative and inclusive process that takes into account the opinions and concerns of all stakeholders.”

The letter further reads, “Furthermore, the proposed amendments to Section 10 of the existing ordinance that lays down the Powers and Functions of the Commission are particularly disturbing. These amendments encroach upon the domains of the provinces and threaten to render higher education institutions subordinate to the HEC thereby reducing their autonomy.

For example, the proposed addition of a new clause (z) under the section of Powers and Functions of the Commission would give the HEC the power to constitute search committees for the appointment of Vice Chancellors of public sector universities in the provinces. This is a blatant encroachment into the territory and could have disastrous consequences for the institutions in question.”

“In Summary, we urge the members of the National Assembly and Senate of Pakistan to reconsider any proposed amendments to the HEC Ordinance that would reduce the autonomy of universities as well as of provinces or undermine the important role of the HEC as a facilitator. The future of our country’s higher education sector depends on our ability to work together and ensure that all stakeholders are consulted and heard”, he demanded.

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